I think Barton-on-Sea is a humbling, incredible part of the world. I only discovered it a year ago and it’s already become one of my most-visited locations, with three prints already under my belt and at least three more in my head and waiting to be shot once the conditions are right.
At low tide and wind it seems innocuous enough, but once the water comes in and the wind picks up, the place is just awesome, formidable. Uncharacteristically for a beach close to Bournemouth, the waves are big, strong and unforgiving. They handed me an unforgettable and particularly unenjoyable lesson earlier in the year (2016) when I was perched down between the sea and the rocks in a rising tide.
It was entirely my fault, I let the sea lore me into a false sense of security until a rogue wave came and washed right over my ankles, crashing up against the rocks and utterly soaking me.
It was nearly worse too – I managed to grab my kit bag at literally the last second – any later and it would have been a bloody expensive mistake. The really stupid thing about it was that my waders were right next to me on the rocks, and I had known I needed to move my equipment further away from the sea, I was just being lazy and complacent.
It had been challenging enough before that happened; much like the roar of the sea, the spray is continual and relentless, it doesn’t stop. This is an obvious challenge for photography but it’s made considerably harder to manage when you’re using multiple filters; they get covered in sea spray every few seconds and if you don’t wipe them clean, the quality of the photograph is seriously compromised. So you take the front filter off to clean and by the time you’re ready to put it back, the next one is covered and now needs cleaning too.
I walked, or rather squelched away from that particular trek cold, wet, with my tail well and truly between my legs and worse of all, photoless. But I’m pleased, because it taught me a few important lessons, one specifically about my overall approach to photography, and another being never to mess with the sea at Barton. It commands respect and awe, it’s an incredible place, raw, timeless and fierce.
So less than a year later and that’s exactly what this photograph is about; the unforgiving, barren, relentless raw power, juxtaposed against a calm, subdued sunset, my ode to getting lulled into a false sense of security by a unique and amazing location.
You can see the sea spray by the cliffs in the distance; it gives you some idea of the difficulty it might cause photographers.
If you’re local and haven’t made it down here yet, I thoroughly recommend it, it’s a lovely walk. If you’re a photographer, add Barton-on-Sea to your locations list immediately, it’s an absolute must-visit, you won’t be disappointed.
Part of the Hengistbury Head, Mudeford and Barton collection.